Imagine you’ve just boarded an Airbus A350 in Newark, N.J., for a 9,000-mile flight to Singapore. You’ll be spending 19 hours on the plane, a very long time—especially in the cheap seats (economy).
This particular trip will be the world’s longest flight route when it relaunches this October.
Most of us will never have to endure a 19-hour flight, but with the summer travel season now underway, you may find yourself on a flight lasting five to six hours (Hawaii, the East Coast), 10 hours (Europe) or even 16 hours (Australia).
Whatever the length of your flight, you can do certain things in advance and take other measures while flying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.
First, let’s talk about what you can do in advance of travel.
Choose your seat carefully.
If you expect to sleep on your flight, decide in advance if you prefer a window or an aisle seat. The advantage of the window is you’ll have a bulkhead to sleep against. But with an aisle seat, you’ll enjoy easier mobility (more on that later).
If I have a choice and I’m flying with my spouse, my favorite seating configuration is a row of two seats, usually found near the front or back of a particular section. One flyer can have the aisle, and the window-seat flyer won’t feel guilty disturbing their seatmate when they get up. I also look for seats that aren’t right next to the restroom, as traffic can congregate there and interrupt your sleep.
Things to bring. There are several items I always pack for a long-haul flight. A good neck pillow is a valuable investment. Also consider a soft eye mask to block out light, and earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to reduce auditory distractions.
You may also want to bring antibacterial wipes to clean off your tray table, armrests and seatbelt buckle before you settle in for your flight. Studies have shown the tray table is one of the dirtiest surfaces on a plane.
Bringing your own healthy snacks and refillable water bottle (fill it after the TSA checkpoint) will ensure you stay hydrated and that you don’t end up eating salty snacks with no nutritional value.
How to dress. When possible, dress in layers of loose-fitting clothing. Many of us have been on flights where the temperature varied between Saharan hot and Finland frigid. By dressing in layers you can add or remove, you’ll be able to keep yourself comfortable.
You may also want to wear compression socks, which can help with blood circulation in your lower extremities. Sitting for long periods of time without moving increases your risk of deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT.
Ask your doctor if compression socks may help you on a long flight.
On the flight. There are a number of things you can do on the flight to improve your experience— things to avoid and things to include.
The things to avoid, or at least moderate, are consumption of alcohol and caffeine. When you’re flying at 35,000 feet, the plane’s pressurized air can leave you dehydrated. Adding alcohol or caffeine can make this worse and can become particularly troublesome on a lengthy flight.
As for things to include, you can counteract dehydration by drinking more water. Some people will say the more they drink, the more visits they’ll have to make to the lavatory. This is true, and it’s another good reason for sitting as close to the aisle as possible.
The last important point to make: While on the flight, try to get up and move around as much as possible. I’m not suggesting you do this while the food and beverage cart is out, but there are plenty of other opportunities during your flight.
When you are sitting, keep your seat belt fastened. Bumpy flying weather can be especially prevalent in the summer. Sometimes turbulence can appear unexpectedly. If your seat belt is fastened, you’ll weather the rough air in greater safety.
If you take to the skies this summer, consider taking this advice with you. No matter the length of the flight, we’re all happier when we can arrive at our destination relaxed and refreshed.